GOD’S NOT MAD AT US

Many folks think that talking about hell and God’s judgment will bring non-believers to faith. That might be good psychology but not good biblical theology. The scripture teaches that God is love. While there is talk about wrath, the presupposition with which I begin is knowing that God’s central essence, around which God creates and sustains his whole creation, is love.

God’s anger is really against the evil to which humans succumbed. Sin is the result of idolatry. Idols have been empowered by human worship, and God in Christ is out to destroy the power of that evil and thus allowing you and me to worship God. Look at the second commandment. In Exodus 20 God says that we shall not bow down and worship any idol. Worship is reserved for the one true God. When the Israelites were freed from Egypt they were to go and ‘worship’ God, not just take a nice trip to the Promised Land. We are created to worship and love God. That’s where the only real life is to be found.

Now let us realize that after all the idolatry God has made peace with his creation through the Son’s victory over death. In Colossians 1:19,20 we read ‘For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross’ (ESV).

Christ rescues us from the dominion of darkness. ‘He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son’ (Colossians 1:13 ESV). Christ has disarmed all the powers and authorities against us.

The Bible doesn’t say that God was so angry with the world that he sent his Son (John 3:16). Rather it says that God loved his world so much. It was love –  God wanting the best for his wayward children.

See, the God we know is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. And that revelation is Love. It is the self-giving of God for God’s creation in order to reconcile us with him. And we know that the Christ on the cross is there because of LOVE. So if we start with the presupposition of a loving God we will then look at all God’s revelation in Scripture through that lens. Certainly there are passages about wrath and anger and God being sorry that he created this world but those scriptures are ‘the dark side of love’, a side that while expressed is not enacted but through the pain of the cross.

Theologian Kazoh Kitamori, in his book ‘Theology of the Pain of God’, wrote that God’s love becomes the wrath of God in his response to sin. God is sorely against sin because it alienates his creation from him. And if I may be so bold I would compare this to a human father loving his child who is bent on living a life in opposition to the love the father has for them. Take for example when my son was little and insisted upon playing in the street. After three times of telling him not to, I resorted to what he might have considered my wrath as he felt the sting of my hand on his butt. But I prefaced my action by saying, ‘Son, this is going to hurt me worse than it hurts you.’

So when the Bible speaks about the wrath of God, it means that WE experience an alienation from God when we worship idols. God has left us to our own devices but God has always been about redemption, restoration, and reconciliation. Read the book of Hosea.

Let’s look at a few passages about the wrath of God. In Ephesians 2:3 we are told we are objects of God’s wrath. But read carefully and you will notice that God loves these objects of wrath (some translations say children of wrath). You will find God’s love expressed in verse 4: ‘Because of His great love for us.’ In the MSG Version we read, ‘It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us.’

In John 3:36 we read that, ‘whoever believes in the Son has eternal life but whoever rejects the son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains upon him.’ I believe this means that outside the Son there is the darkness of an unconscious life, which is then subject to the evil in this universe. And who really wants that kind of life? ‘All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that’ (John 3:36 MSG).

Now one more verse – Ephesians 5:6. After a litany of the bad things humans do, Paul writes: ‘because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.’ But there again it is the darkness of being apart from God that is experienced as wrath because remember, we were all disobedient to God, enemies of God and alienated until by grace through faith we stepped into the light of life. See Ephesians 2:4.

There are other passages but these will suffice to say that wrath is NOT the nature of God. That’s good news for all. God is not out to ‘get us’ but rather his purpose is to reconcile us to himself. As Jesus proved through the cross, this work of love pained him more than we can even imagine. That’s ‘costly grace’ that yearns for a response.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ATTRACTION OF UNIVERSALISM

It is difficult for me to comprehend how humans can think to be more merciful than God with regards to the eternal destiny of each human soul. After all we are made in God’s image to love, and to forgive but it would seem that according to traditional Christian teaching there is a limit to God’s own loving nature and actions.

In 1990 I became a convinced Calvinist assured that God’s glory was somehow tied into the justice of electing some out of all the reprobates on earth. Otherwise, I reasoned, we should all end up in eternal torment if not for the limited atonement of Christ for certain people.

But as I read the entire Bible it appears more and more that God’s plan is to bless the entire world and those in it. It appears that God’s desire is to have mercy on all people, that Christ is the second Adam in whom all are made alive.

Jesus said he would draw all people to himself through his death. And the Bible states that God really desires all people to be ‘saved’.

In my own mind without doubt is the idea that God’s love and grace are universal. But is that grace finally successful? I believe it is. That’s my presupposition if you will, somewhat akin to the presupposition of a loving God as see through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

I will use a universalistic hermeneutic (way of interpreting the scriptures) as I study God’s word and writings that pertain to this subject. I want to make the case for believing that the new heaven and new earth will resolve all sin, injustice and sorrow to the glory of God.

In my mind the story of the Bible is not about the power of God but the love of God as revealed in Christ and known through the Trinity.

Your reflections and questions will be most appreciated.

 

 

PRO LIFE SHOULD MEAN PRO LIFE ALWAYS. BABIES & GUNS.

PRO LIFE SHOULD MEAN PRO LIFE ALWAYS. BABIES & GUNS.

I am a Conservative, theologically, in that I believe in a sound Biblical, Christ- centered reading of Scripture, one that informs life within the church and within society. I am pro life, for life, for the flourishing of life by all means possible since life comes to us through Christ and in the image of God.

So here’s what I don’t understand. How can Conservatives say that they are ‘pro life’ and deny a woman’s right to choose what happens to and within her own body to save to life of a child that is to be born, and then in the same discussion NOT be willing to somehow deny the right to GUNS in order that little children as well as adults might have life along with their families and the society that would benefit from their lives.

Please don’t tell me it has to do with some obscure reference to ‘swords’ that Jesus makes when you can readily assess the heart and mind of Jesus with regards to peace and violence and ‘enemies’. Is it because we good capitalists don’t want to destroy the arms industry? Are we as conservative Christians so callous to life and so conformed to the world that we are so afraid of giving up guns rights to save more lives?

Help me out here. How can I defend the little child’s right to life within the womb when some of my brothers and sisters aren’t willing to TRY to save the lives of children in the school, on the streets, and in their homes and when they grow up?

This is a decision of THE CHURCH and not just an individual opinion based on a misinformed conscience. This is an opportunity for the church to speak a prophetic word to the church and say, in ‘Christ’s name, STOP.’

Don’t blame the criminals. They are only doing what they know to do. Blame the good people for doing nothing.

Classic

I love the word, ‘classic’. It doesn’t just mean ‘old’. it means ‘fine’. It means that something or even someone is of the highest quality, outstanding or valuable. Like classic music, a classic car (my little 66 v.w. beetle convertible). A movie can be considered classic. A person is sometimes thought of as ‘classy’.

So it got me to thinking about and then discovering a book entitle CLASSIC CHRISTIANITY by Thomas Oden. Think about it. The faith that has been delivered to us is classic. It’s incredible,fine, valuable, outstanding and one of a kind classic.

Jude 1 3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.(NKJV)

Wow, have we strayed away from that classic christian message or what? We have got church folks like myself living too materially with too many thoughts that don’t often align with the words and actions of Jesus. We have got ourselves liberal christians who somehow think they know better than that classic faith has taught us. So they diminish the authority of the Bible with inclusive, tolerant, universal interpretations and language that basically say it doesn’t matter how you believe or live your life as long as you are basically a good person fighting injustices here and there.

The faith that was once delivered to us through God’s revelation most particularly in Jesus has been through the wringer of philosophies and theologies that have all but pressed out the original Jesus and his powerful message of love, tough love that it is. Some church folk are even afraid to share the Gospel with people thinking that all people are somehow saved without God’s word. And then Jesus tells us to love our neighbor and we look down on the immigrant folks coming from the south. Now we are even claiming we must stop them because the terrorists are part of their company.

No, we need the classic christianity that was believed by the early church fathers…ok, some mothers too. That was a faith worth literally dying for. Read some of the accounts of people like Polycarp.

Whereas once churches were communities that gathered together now they are mega- institutions that have problems of finance and property that Jesus never intended. We need classic christianity. We need class Jesus, the one who was born in most humble estate of a VIRGIN….no matter what liberals say.  The one who gave up all for everything and died to take on himself the condemnation that was due to us all …..no matter what the liberals say. And he rose bodily from the dead, not just in a fairy tale or in our minds as…..

And while i am at it Jesus nowhere instructs his followers to go and bomb our enemies. No where! We cannot justify it in the name of security or terrorism threat no matter what Sean Hannity may say. I want what Jesus says and teaches and if I have to die for that faith I should be willing. I may be scared to death but death is not the end. Jesus said not to fear those who can only kill the body but rather fear him who can kill the body and send the soul to hell. OOPS.

The earliest Christians lived a faith that we now can term classic in the best sense. Let us strive to live that message, the one that is so clear in the Bible. Remember that song, ‘Give me that old-time religion’- well that’s what we need. A wonderful traditional, evangelical, classic teaching handed down to us in the first century.

I think I will get that book CLASSIC CHRISTIANITY…..and I hope this post I am writing doesn’t mean I have to give my classic VW away. Besides it was a gift from my wife.

Blessings to all.

 

 

IN CHRIST ALONE

So within a certain denominational church in these parts a group of ‘experts’ working on a new hymnal have decided NOT TO INCLUDE a particularly beautiful hymn entitled IN CHRIST alone. The reason they give is that line of the lyrics speaks about Christ dying to satisfy the ‘wrath’ of God. They don’t like that kind of theology.

They indicated that there might be ways the wrath of God is satisfied but not by the cross of Christ, not by Christ’s death.

Well, that’s their opinion and they are entitled to it but why not place a hymn in the book that gives an expression that many Christians believe is Biblical.

John Calvin in his Institutes of Christian Religion writes:

“Therefore, [God] loved us even when we practiced enmity toward him and committed wickedness. Thus in a marvelous and divine way he loved us even when he hated us. For he hated us for what we were that he had not made; yet because our wickedness had not entirely consumed his handiwork, he knew how, at the same time, to hate in each one of us what we had made, and to love what he had made.”

Can we not understand the wrath of God and the love of God can exist together and that God gave his own Son so that the justice of his wrath would be satisfied in his loving act through the cross?
― H. Richard Niebuhr in his book The Kingdom of God in America commented on liberal Christian theology getting to the point where the result would be:

“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

It seems that a significant portion of the aforementioned denomination would rather believe in the Christ who came to show us love by his birth and his teachings and suffering in life for justice but not the Christ who was sent by God (God in the flesh) to satisfy divine justice for the forgiveness of sin. It is a slippery slope the end of which ends in a full humanistic picture of Jesus as a nice guy, who taught good morals and then died. Happens to lots of nice people.

I for one would rather know the God revealed in the Bible say in Romans 5:

8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.…

Think of yourself for a human example….when you have wrath (severe punishing anger) against someone how do you get justice? If you forgive them it will cost you yourself. You will have to die to yourself. Something of you dies (like your ego) in order to make things right. Try it out. You will see.

No, I am part of the aforementioned denomination and find their grievous error of omission to be so like much of what is wrong with such a liberal ‘enlightened’ theology. Give me a break and let some of us who hold to more evangelical, reformed, traditional theology and reading of the Scripture have some of our views expressed in a hymnal that must have a few other songs that express different views.

Keith Getty and Stuart Townend wrote the hymn. Give it a listen if you haven’t already. Even if it is not in the aforementioned hymnal it will be a classic.

It seems that THE CROSS OF CHRIST IS STILL A STUMBLING BLOCK.